Speaking on Radio Rossii on 18 February, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Russia would welcome monitoring by international observers of the 23 March referendum on a new draft Chechen constitution and election legislation, Russian news agencies reported. He said that only those Russian servicemen permanently stationed in Chechnya are eligible to vote in the referendum, adding that they account for less than 7 percent of the republic's 537,655 registered voters. Yastrzhembskii also said that elections for a new Chechen president could take place "several months" after the constitution is approved. He said law-enforcement agencies will do their best to ensure security for the referendum, noting that not a single act of violence was registered during the election in August 2000 of a deputy to represent Chechnya in the Duma. LF
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